DOWNERS GROVE – More than 200 emergency responders and volunteers participated in a massive "active shooter" scenario Friday at Midwestern University.
The full-scale drill, spearheaded by the Village of Downers Grove Police and Fire Departments and Midwestern University, locked down campus for about 90 minutes Friday morning. Several other area police and fire agencies, along with Good Samaritan Hospital, participated as well, in addition to the regional SWAT team.
"It's fantastic to have this sort of real-to-life scenario to draw a lot of information on, and practice what we've been trained for," Downers Grove Fire Chief James Jackson said. "This kind of tool is just the best."
Viewing from a nearby parking deck, media could observe the "shooter" enter Alumni Hall about 8:30 a.m. Friday and begin firing shots. The initial calls for help rang out over the police radio, and within minutes officers made entrance to the west side of the building and exchanged mock gunfire with the suspect, who was "neutralized" in the building's Hyde Atrium.
"Our officers are trained to eliminate the threat," Downers Grove Police Chief Robert Porter said. "So if we have an active shooting situation, the officers are trained to go to the gunfire."
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, a steady stream of officers flowed to the building. Law enforcement cleared an area for fire personnel and medics to establish the triage unit and asses patients.
Even with the knowledge that the ongoings were merely a drill, observing a scene that recalls the news footage from past real-life tragedies can be unsettling.
"From my perspective, the chances of this happening in our community are remote," Porter said. "However as public safety professionals, we have to prepare for if something should happen. And that's what this is all about. The village and our partners take this very seriously."
Friday's event was the culmination of many smaller training exercises the department does in cooperation with local schools, Porter said.
"This is something that's been ongoing," he said. "We'll find out more when we do a formal debriefing of the incident, things that went well, things we need to work on."
Observers and evaluators from county agencies also viewed the Friday's event.
"They were all assigned different components of the event," Porter said. "And they'll give us some feedback, and make some recommendations."